Cycling News Flash for January 13, 2004
Edited by Chris Henry
French police raid Cofidis team headquarters
Ex-Cofidis rider Rutkiewicz arrested
The French Cofidis team has been thrown into the center of a new doping investigation, after former team member Marek Rutkiewicz, 23, was arrested at the Charles de Gaulle airport Monday by French police. Rutkiewicz remains in custody, following a day when Cofidis' team headquarters were also raided by police earlier in the afternoon, seizing certain medical files but finding no banned substances on site, according to a report in Tuesday's l'Equipe.
French police found suspected doping products in Rutkiewicz's luggage after he arrived from Poland Monday, and likewise seized several items from his home in Hyères, France. The materials have been sent for testing to determine whether or not they are indeed doping substances.
"I'm just learning that our service course was searched," Cofidis directeur sportif Francis Van Londersele told l'Equipe Monday evening. "And the office of [team doctor] Jean-Jacques Meneut as well. As far as that's concerned, I'm not worried. As for Rutkiewicz, he was a good guy and we never had any reason to complain. He's no longer in the team because of his results, not because of any suspicions of doping."
Rutkiewicz turned professional with Cofidis in 2001, and this year is due to ride with RAGT Semences-MG Rover, which succeeds Jean Delatour. Pending the outcome of his arrest and the police investigation into possible trafficking of banned substances, the Polish rider's future appears less certain.
"As is often the case in cycling, we sign riders based on advice we're given," RAGT directeur sportif Jean-Luc Jonrond commented, adding that it was on the advice of Cofidis' Polish soigneur Bogdan Madejak that RAGT offered Rutkiewicz a contract. "Now I'm told [Rutkiewicz] is implicated in a scandal like this, and I don't even know his last name! Seeing as Marek is just 23, I thought that was a guarantee against doping. I guess I was wrong."
Bogdan "Bob" Madejak is himself reportedly the subject of an ongoing investigation by French authorities, believed to be part of a widespread trafficking network from eastern Europe. He had been implicated in the Raimondas Rumsas affair following the 2002 Tour de France. Madejak's home in France was also searched by police, and recorded telephone calls had prompted police to pursue the notion of a larger network of doping substances.
The Cofidis team is currently at a training camp in Spain following the team's official presentation Friday in Paris. No other Cofidis riders have been interviewed by police. Rutkiewicz himself had made a special trip back to Poland, leaving an RAGT training camp early, to receive an award for best young rider in his home country. His arrest is said to correspond with suspicions of drug trafficking which could implicate other riders in the professional peloton.
Madejak returns to Paris
As Cofidis team management learned of the police activity in France, actions were taken quickly to cooperate with the French authorities. Team manager Alain Bondue directed soigneur Madejak to return to Paris from the training camp in Calpe, Spain. Madejak has been suspended from all team duties.
"There will always be cheats," Cofidis spokesperson Alexandre Michaud told Darren Tulett of Bloomberg News Tuesday. "We can't be behind everybody all the time but as far as we're concerned, the issues are very clear. Anyone at Cofidis who's found guilty of any drug-related charge will be immediately fired. It's in their contract; it's the same for staff and riders."
Michaud said Madejak was on the plane back to Paris and that police would likely be waiting for him at the airport.
At the same time, Bondue insists the team will not find itself in a scandal along the lines of the Festina affair of 1998.
"Today (Tuesday), I'm not worried about Cofidis, which has nothing to hide, and I reiterate the statements I made in Ireland in 1998 when the Festina affair came to light," Bondue told Reuters by telephone from Spain. "Only the police can effectively lead the fight against doping."
Bondue added that after the police searches of Cofidis' service course and the offices of team doctor Meneut, he was informed that it was Madejak who remained the focus of the investigation (along with Rutkiewicz), and not the team as a whole.
"They took from Amiens the medical files of several riders, not the whole team," Bondue explained, "and left Cofidis at 9:30pm, assuring me that their investigation did not concern us and was over."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)